India’s R Praggnanandhaa emerged as the winner in the World Youth Chess Championship, claiming the coveted gold in the Under-18 Open category in Mumbai on Saturday.
The 14-year-old Grandmaster from Chennai etched out a cautious draw in the 11th and final round against Valentin Buckels (Germany) to top the charts with nine points. He, however, will have to thank compatriot International Master Arjun Kalyan for engineering a crucial draw against top seeded Shant Sargsyan (Armenia).
Praggnanandhaa would have been under pressure if GM Shant had won. But the Armenian couldn’t unravel a determined Arjun, allowing Praggnanandhaa to call truce and clinch the title.
The Championship ended on a high note for India, with six other medals, including three silver, coming their way. Only the Under-16 Girls category proved elusive for India, although BM Akshaya gave a good account of herself. Akshaya lost the medal to Anousha Mahdian, after suffering an unexpected defeat to her in the final round.
The country’s Under-14 Girls were the toast of the day, with Divya Deshmukh and Rakshitta Ravi bringing home two medals. Top seed WIM Divya, who seemed to be out of contention midway through the event, pulled off a well thought out victory in the last round to clinch the silver.
Rakshitta too beat overnight leader Bat-Erdene Mungunzul on the top board to earn the bronze. Kazakhstan’s Meruert Kamalidenova, however, was the star of this category, reeling off five straight wins to clinch the gold medal.
FIDE Master LR Srihari (Under-14 Open) and Vantika Agrawal (Under-16 Girls) collected the country’s other two silver medals, playing out draws in their respective matches. Vantika had an outside chance of pocketing the gold, especially after top seed Polina Shuvalova (8.5 points) settled for a draw; Vantika (eight points), however, couldn’t beat Alexandra Obolentseva of Russia to finish half a point behind the eventual winner.
Srihari (eight points), who was in contention for the gold at the start of the penultimate day, endured draws in the last two rounds to slip to the second position. S Maralakshikari won the bronze, after beating the surprise package of the championship, R Abinandhan.
Candidate Master Aronyak Ghosh (eight points) claimed the other bronze for the country in the Under-16 Open after drawing with Iran’s Arash Daghli. He will, however, look back at the WYCC as a missed opportunity, after accepting a quick draw in the penultimate round.
Winners of World Youth Chess Championship 2019:
U18 Open: Praggnanandhaa R (IND) 9.0; Shant Sargsyan (ARM) 8.5; Artur Davtyan (ARM) 8.0
U18 Girls: Polina Shuvalova (RUS) 8.5; Vantika Agrawal (IND) 8.0; Alexandra Obolentseva (RUS) 7.5
U16 Open: Rudik Makarian (RUS) 8.5; Stefan Pogosyan (RUS) 8.0; Aronyak Ghosh (IND) 8.0
U16 Girls: Leya Garifullina (RUS) 8.5; Nurgali Nazerke (KAZ) 8.5; Anousha Mahdian (IRI) 8.0
U14 Open: Aydin Suleymanli (AZE) 9.0; Srihari LR (IND) 8.0; Sreeshwan Maralakshikari (IND) 8.0
U14 Girls: Meruert Kamalidenova (KAZ) 8.5; Divya Deshmukh (IND) 8.0; Rakshitta Ravi (IND) 8.0